Monthly Archives: March 2013

Are We in a Crisis Over Fertility?

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Many women today are having great success with IVF and other fantastic methods of conception that our medical system has come up with.  And others still are using acupuncture and other natural therapies to either complement the conventional therapies they’re using, or as their first effort, hoping to forego the drugs and test tubes.  But there are still women having trouble getting pregnant.  Why?

It’s certainly not fair that one woman who tries the same methods as the next can get pregnant while the second woman cannot.  And it would be great if we could say why, after repeated attempts with IVF, and after tens of thousands of dollars spent, some women still can’t get pregnant.  It would be great if we had answers for them, because then maybe they wouldn’t feel so awful, blaming themselves, their partners, or whoever they can think of.  Sometimes, there’s just no one to blame, and that can hurt just as badly, or worse.

We certainly live in a great time: there are seemingly endless options available for couples trying to get pregnant.  The flip-side, of course, is that one has trouble choosing which therapy should work for them.  IVF seems to be a popular choice, but it is very expensive.  I have been practicing acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for several years, and have had the opportunity to treat some women who were looking to conceive.  Their results with me were mostly very positive, especially for those who were able to come for the recommended amount of treatments and follow my advice regarding lifestyle changes.  But for those without insurance, who are forced to pay out-of-pocket, even a few acupuncture sessions at a reduced rate can seem financially daunting, especially when results cannot be guaranteed.  So what can you do?

Until the Ontario government covers IVF and acupuncture for fertility under OHIP, we’re left in a bit of a void concerning the ‘right’ choices one can make with regards to becoming more fertile.  And many women need help at a point when they’re of a certain age, thus a very real time limit is set.  In the end, like so many things in life, what to do about fertility treatment is a personal choice.  I advocate acupuncture (of course), and also recommend trying certain changes in your diet.  You can even try yoga, which has been used for centuries to make women more fertile.  And most importantly, make the choice to be happy.  Whether you end up conceiving or not.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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5 Ways Your Spleen is Different in Chinese Medicine

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If you know much about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you probably know that acupuncture and TCM practitioners view your internal organs in a much different way than your science-based conventional medicine does.  While both frameworks of medicine are important to our health care, TCM is unique in that it views your body as a direct reflection of the world and the universe around it, and vice versa.  That is to say that everything that exists within the world and the universe (energy, wind, fire, and so on) also exists inside each of us.  With this is mind, each of our major and minor organs play a vital role in connecting us not only to ourselves, but also to each other via nature.  But how are these organs viewed in terms of function and, to help illuminate our understanding, how do they differ from what we know about their science-based counterparts?  Let’s look at the Spleen (capitalized to differentiate from the scientific definition).

1.  Anatomically, your spleen is a part of your body’s lymphatic drainage system, essentially helping to clean your blood.  In TCM, your Spleen is responsible for your digestion, i.e. taking nutrients that you derive from the air and your food, and transforming and then distributing the nutrients (such as energy, aka ‘Qi’) throughout your body.  This is why fatigue and anemia are often linked to a breakdown in your Spleen’s functionality.

2.  The spleen by scientific standards is a non-vital organ, not affecting your life without much consequence if you have it removed.  In TCM, on the other hand, your Spleen is a major organ, with a meridian (a pathway in your body that acts as a channel for Qi, Blood, and other nutrients) that runs from your feet to your chest.  In addition to nutrient production, your Spleen is responsible for water metabolism, helping your body rid itself of excess fluids and also nourishing your body where needed.  This is how Spleen imbalance explains issues such as edema or weight gain.

3.  Scientifically your spleen’s functions help your immune system by synthesizing white blood cells.  In TCM, your Spleen is responsible for controlling your Blood and ensuring that it flows within the proper meridians and not outside of them.  Thus Spleen imbalances can be seen in conditions such as blood in your urine or metrorrhagia (menstrual bleeding that occurs outside of your normal cycle).

4.  Filtering your blood while also assisting your immune system fairly sums up your spleen anatomically-speaking, but the Spleen has yet another important function in TCM.  By dominating your muscles and limbs, your Spleen is essential to maintaining muscle mass and healthy limbs.  Spleen imbalance, therefore, can lead to muscle and limb weakness, and in severe cases even atrophy.

To keep your Spleen healthy, eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly.  Nourish your Spleen with foods that are somewhat warm in nature, like ginger.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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Detox – Does it Work?

Detoxification (aka ‘dethttp://yellowgazeboclinic.com/services/acupuncture-and-tcm/oxing’) is a popular activity in our culture, and it’s not surprising that we think of ridding ourselves of so-called ‘toxins’, what with the knowledge that industry has polluted and continues to pollute our environment so.  But are these different detox diets really necessary?  Do we need to starve ourselves with chicken broth-only diets or drink apple cider vinegar and lemon juice until we’re nauseous? Certainly to an extent these ideas have some merit, but I’m not so sure they’re really all that healthy.

A detox diet tends to be geared towards weight loss as much as it is meant to rid you of chemicals and pollutants in your body.  The premise is essentially that your body is incapable of processing these toxins on its own, and that once you are free of them you will have more energy, feel better, and shed unwanted pounds.  Most detox diets are very low in calories, and sometimes require taking herbs and/or supplements.

But do the diets work?  Sort of – if you limit your caloric intake for a long enough period of time, you will surely lose some weight and feel better.  But they are not long-term solutions for better health, because you can’t sustain such an extreme way of eating.  Once you go back to eating the foods you eat on a normal basis, you regain the weight and end up back where you started, or in a worse place from where you began.

Unfortunately, there are dangers associated with a detox diet, including dizziness from low blood sugar, and much more serious issues caused by fasting, such as problems with pregnancy and your ability to get pregnant, as well as your brain and heart processes, muscles, joints, bones, kidneys, intestines, and even your skin and hair.  In addition, colon cleanses can rid your body of important electrolyte and fluid balances, leading to even more issues.

What should you do?  Well, there are much healthier ways to lose weight, if that’s your concern.  Speaking with a nutritional counsellor can help a great deal, and getting on a regular exercise plan is extremely helpful as well.  The key is to look at improving your health in a long-term scenario, and not with a ‘quick fix’ mentality.  In terms of simply ridding your body of toxins, exercise can help tremendously, as can a natural medicine like acupuncture, which works on your body by unblocking energy pathways.  This blocked energy can make contribute greatly to feeling poorly, so consider this great therapy as a good start for bettering your health.

Finally, since your body naturally detoxifies you via your liver, lungs, colon and kidneys, look at ways you can improve the health of these organs, e.g. by quitting smoking and drinking alcohol, eating more fiber (especially from whole grains), drinking more water, and getting better sleep.  The detox diets are pointed in the right direction: be simple.  Just be smart about it as well!

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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A Good Massage – from a TCM Perspective

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Chair Massage at Yellow Gazebo

Although acupuncture is my specialty and not massage, I’ve been lucky enough to have had some great training in massage, and I’ve worked with massage therapists for several years. I’d like this blog to talk about what I think a good massage should be, according to what I’ve learned in school and in practice.

Just to give you some background, I am an acupuncturist trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and I have had my formal training in Tui Na, which is Chinese massage based on TCM principles of healing.  In China one will usually have basic training in TCM and then go on to specialize in either herbs, acupuncture, or Tui Na.  My program here in Toronto focused on acupuncture, but as a four-year course was still able to give us good training in herbs and massage as well.

So although I do not do Swedish Massage, which is the form taught to registered massage therapists in Ontario, I nonetheless have extensive experience massaging people and have had the opportunity to learn from RMT’s and to hone my skills to become what they are today – likely quite different from what I was taught nine years ago in school.

What I’ve learned is that massage is very different from person to person.  One therapist may be loved by one patient, yet has another patient who does not enjoy their work.  Luckily for me, massage is only a small part of what I do, and my work focuses on healing a specific ailment.  If those symptoms decrease, and my patient feels better, then (more often than not) I have succeeded.  RMT’s, on the other hand, sometimes have a much more difficult time going about their work.  A patient may describe a set of symptoms, yet be expecting a relaxation massage and not want ‘real work’ done.  Thus relief of their symptoms becomes secondary to their perception of what they had expected.  And so the communication between RMT and patient in terms of expectations becomes very important.

My experience in dealing with people has also taught me something that I now apply to my practice, and indeed my life as much as possible: you can say or do pretty much anything to anyone as long as it’s done the right way.  Easily said, not easily put into play in life!  But it holds true, and the more I believe this and apply it, the more this comes back to me with verification of my beliefs.  How do I apply this to massage?  Simply that – call it ‘confidence’ – applied during massage.  No one wants to be touched in a timid, non-confident way, and most of us who are expecting to be touched by another will enjoy it that much more if it comes with a measure of confidence.  In fact, the more confident and positive the touch, the better we will feel!

So it comes that my massage is indeed the same in principal as the RMTs’ massages with whom I practice.  In order to give a good massage, we must all do it with a certain type of energy: one that is confident and positive in nature.  Done in this way, we will surely have more patients like us or not, regardless of how much we heal them.  Or perhaps that positive energy is indeed healing them more than a repaired muscle healed with timid, negative energy would.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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3 Ways You Can Get the Most Out of Your Treatments


Have you ever felt that maybe you could have got more out of your acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy (or whatever therapy) session but weren’t really sure how?  I’m hoping that this blog will help you to do just that in your future appointments.  With a few key implements to your ‘routine’ at a wellness clinic, you can walk away feeling that you could not have possibly received more from your treatment.  And since Yellow Gazebo Natural Health Care aims to give you exactly that from your acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy (and whatever) treatments, take a look at these easy tips:

1.  Be open to thinking dynamically.  We’re living in a society that seeks out a ‘magic pill’ to cure illness, and beneath that desire is a tendency to see things in a very linear fashion.  “If my shoulder hurts, I want something that will relieve the pain in my shoulder.”  Sounds reasonable of course, but if we draw a line from what cures that shoulder pain to the pain itself, the very cause of the pain may not even be involved.  And it is not always easy to draw a line from cause to symptom, and so we tend to get lost in this confusion, making us eventually give up trying to find a cure, or to just use whatever masks the pain so that we can get on with our lives.  Natural health care encourages you to see your body in a cyclical, dynamic way, where your shoulder might hurt because of something that your hip is doing, and might then be helped by loosening your hip muscles.  So be open to thinking ‘outside the line’, so to speak, where your body becomes something living, and not just a machine made up of a bunch of different parts.

2.  Get educated about the possibilities that natural health care has to offer.  Traditional western medicine, that which your family doctor practices, is great for many things, like antibiotics or issues that require surgery.  And indeed, there are certainly times when prescription medication should be used, especially when it’s being used alongside natural medicine without any interference.  But many doctors are not educated on the benefits of natural healing like acupuncture or reflexology, and so they can only prescribe what they’ve been taught to in school.  It then becomes your job to seek out knowledge that might help you further, but don’t let that scare you.  There are currently many great websites replete with information about how natural therapies can help you (including Yellow Gazebo).  And by all means discuss what you learn with your doctor, he/she may have some good input on the subject once you’ve brought it up!

3.  Get the logistics in place.  Try to do the things that make it easier for you to be comfortable in the treatment room.  If you book your appointment at least a day or two in advance (a recurring, weekly treatment is best if you can manage it), show up on time, and cancel within the clinic’s requested time frame, you’ll be more comfortable in the treatment room because you won’t have all those worrying logistical thoughts going through your head.  These are the parts of the treatment that you yourself can control, so in this way be a therapist to yourself and try to make them happen.

I hope that this helps.  For more info, visit us at www.YellowGazeboClinic.com, or call or email us.  416-909-2334, info@yellowgazeboclinic.com.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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